Dr. Gabor Maté is highly sought after for his expertise on topics such as addiction, stress, and childhood development. 

He has written several bestselling books, including the NYT bestseller The Myth of Normal, the award-winning In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction; When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress; and Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. He is also the co-author of Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.

481: Hold On To Your Kids 

Dr. Gabor Maté

Is your child oppositional?

The problem may not be in your child, but in your relationship. Dr. Gabor Maté returns to the Mindful Parenting Podcast to talk about the problem of “peer orientation” and how it creates a competition between adult intentions and peers.

Discussion about the natural parental hierarchy, how to take “back” our kids and promote healthy attachment with adults. 

Hold On To Your Kids - Dr. Gabor Maté [481]

Read the Transcript 🡮

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Dr Gabor Mate: And what we're missing is that the child's behaviors and ways of being are a function and a product of our relationship with them.

[00:00:13] Hunter: You're listening to The Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 481. Today, we're talking about holding on to your kids with Dr. Gabor Mate.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting Podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clarkfields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years, I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, and I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now, Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Rest Pause, Stay Present, and Connect with Your Kids. Welcome! Welcome back!

Hey, I'm so grateful that you're here. This is going to be such an amazing episode. You have no idea, but listen, if you have ever gotten value from this podcast, please go help the show grow by just telling one friend about it. I mean, this comment, let's think about it. This is Gabor Mata. You're going to want to tell.

at least three friends about it. But anyway, tell a friend. It makes a big difference, and I hugely appreciate it. In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down again with Dr. Gabor Mate. He is highly sought after for his expertise on topics such as addiction, stress, and childhood development. He has written several bestselling books, including the New York Times bestseller, The Myth of Normal, which I love and highly recommend that book.

And the award winning In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, Close Encounters with Addiction, When the Body Says No, The Cost of Hidden Stress, and Scattered Minds, the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. He's also the co author of the book we're going to talk about today, Hold On to Your Kids, Why Parents Need to Matter.

More Than Peers. And I love this conversation because Gabor Mate co authored Hold On To Your Kids with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, and it stems from when his son was young and Gabor Monte's son was young, and his angry outburst troubles his parents so much that they took him to see Dr. Gordon Neufeld. And this book stems very much from that work that they did together.

It's really, really beautiful. So if you have maybe an oppositional child, Dr. Monte says that the problem may not be in your child, but in your relationship. We're going to talk about the problem of peer orientation. and how it creates competition between adult intentions and peers. So we're going to talk about, well, you'll hear about the natural parental hierarchy and how to back our kids and promote a healthy attachment with adults rather than peers.

There is so much here. I know you're going to really love this episode. Join me at the table as I talk to Dr. Gabor Maté.

So, Dr. Gabor Maté, thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting podcast. I'm so glad you're here.

[00:03:34] Dr Gabor Mate: Nice to be with you. Again.

[00:03:36] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. Good. Good to talk to you again. Um, and we're here to talk a little, this time a little bit, uh, about your book that you wrote with Gordon Neufeld, PhD, uh, Hold On To Your Kids.

And uh, there's, as I was like kind of looking into the, you know, because I was reading the book and looking into this, um, it sounds like there was a, there was an article in The Guardian talking about how, when, when your son was. You, you went to talk to Gordon Neufeld. You went to see him cause he is this renowned developmental psychologist.

And, um, and he said to you that your son doesn't have a problem. You do that instead of having a troubled kid on your hands, you had to address your own behavior. I imagine that was kind of surprising to hear that news back then. It's

[00:04:29] Dr Gabor Mate: surprising, but it was also empowering because, uh, Our belief was, by the way, that was 40 years ago now.

And uh, that kid who was eight then is 48 now.

[00:04:41] Speaker 3: Wow.

[00:04:41] Dr Gabor Mate: He helped me write my most recent book.

[00:04:43] Speaker 3: Oh.

[00:04:43] Dr Gabor Mate: And, uh, bit of Normal, and him and I are working on a new book together called Hello Again. A Fresh Start for Parents and Adult Children.

[00:04:52] Hunter: Oh. Oh, I love that. And I love the Myth of Normal. You the shout out for that book.


[00:04:58] Dr Gabor Mate: it's been 40 years since we met Gordon and, uh. You know, in this society, when kids, um, you know, exhibit troubling behaviors or disobedience or, or issues, we think there's something wrong with the kid. And our first go to is, let's fix the kid. And that's the attitude with which my wife and I consulted Gordon.

But he said to us, no, he says, the problem is not with him, his behavior. And the troubling, um, dynamics that he exhibits are a function of your relationship with him. And if you go to work on that relationship, his behavior will change. So the, the, the behaviors of the child are a symptom of something awry in their relationship with their parents.

Which, of course, can be both disturbing for parents, but also very empowering. It's a whole lot easier to work on yourself and to change their relationship. and try and fix the kid, which by the way, doesn't work. And so in our society, we tend to either explain kids issues by pathologizing them, giving them all these diagnoses, often medicating them, or we think it's a behavior that we try and fix in a child by either punishment or reward.

And what we're missing is that the child's Behaviors and ways of being are a function and a product of our relationship with them. And that's the main point of this book is that let's look at the relationship rather than trying to. Um, Pathologize the Child.

[00:06:40] Hunter: Yeah, you said that, um, by the time you wrote Hold On To Your Kids, you made every mistake in the book.

And I'm wondering, what are these, some of these mistakes that you, you made with your son that you, you were describing in that statement?

[00:06:56] Dr Gabor Mate: Yeah, well, the biggest one. It's a very natural one. Um, it's my assumption that if I love the kids, that'd be enough, but the love that the parent feels for the child, although it's essential, it's not enough.

Bad love has to get through to the child. It has to be received by the child. And how that love is received depends very much on the relationship. What I didn't know about the importance of building. About saving and holding sacred that relationship with our children. So, let's not assume that loving them is enough.

It's necessary, but it's not enough. That love has to, um, be delivered and received by the child. And for the child's heart to remain open to receiving it depends very much on their safety, security, and trust in their relationship. Which in our society for many reasons is undermined. That's the first one.

The second one, which we don't talk about so much in World Dante Kids, I talk about it in my other books. Um, is that our own emotional states very much affect the child. So then in order to take care of the child, I gotta take care of myself. And how I live my life. And what my relationship is with my spouse.

What the atmosphere is in the home, what's the emotional resonance in the home, not the child. Because the kids are wired into our emotional states, so taking care of our own emotional states is absolutely essential. The third one, and this is one of the main themes of this book, Hold On To Your Kids, the subtitle being Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers, is that in our society there's been a hidden dynamic that basically ro ro basically robs parents.

of their capacity to deliver that love to their children because their children are too early in age on acculturated to look to each other. for, um, modeling and, and, and for connection. And that's an unnatural product of something that's quite an aberration in human evolution and history, which is that most of the time, most of our kids are away from the parents.

And we assume that they're still our kids. But they're not, because in the sense of being attached to children, especially young children, they attach to who they're with. And when they spend most of their time from an early age on in the company of their peers, gradually they're attached to the relationship that's meant to be primarily with the adults and the parents.

It's transferred to the peer group and peer group then becomes dominant in children's thinking. How to be, how to walk, how to talk, what shoes to wear, what values to uphold, what values to reject. And so that basically, there's this competition with the adult values and adult intentions, so that for the, almost for the first time in history, children are getting most of their influences from immature peers, and immature peers cannot guide one another to maturity by definition.

This is an aberration in human history and human existence. Essentially, what it means is, we lose the power to parent, because the power to parent doesn't come contrary to what some people think, because we're bigger and smarter and stronger. It comes from kids who want to belong to us. It comes from people, kids who want to attach to us, to connect with us.

And that's what gives us the natural authority, so we don't have to become authoritarians. When we lose our natural authority, we try to become authoritarian and force our authority, the hierarchy, by force, which pushes kids further away from us. So those are all the mistakes that we made. Uh, that must

[00:10:57] Hunter: have been an incredibly frustrating time.

There's a lot obviously to, to talk about here. You're, you know, if I love my kid, that will be enough. The idea that we miss that our own emotional state matters enormously. The, the peer orientation and then, and then that, that attachment piece, there's, there's so much there. I mean, what did, at that time, just to kind of bring it back to kind of you personally and your wife, what, where did you start?

What did you, what did you do with that information? Where did you start with it?

[00:11:33] Dr Gabor Mate: Well, I wish I could say that overnight, magically, we turn things around. Wouldn't

[00:11:38] Hunter: that be nice?

[00:11:40] Dr Gabor Mate: Um, but, uh, we still had our own issues to work out. Um, but I can tell you that this book was published originally almost 30 years ago, 30 years ago now, and, um, no, sorry, 20 years ago now.

And we've been told internationally, uh, it's been published by over 30 languages. What we've been told internationally is that in a lot of families, reading the book immediately made a huge difference. And the difference it made for us as well is that, um, we started looking at what in the home life brings the child closer to us and what drives him further away.

And not to see his behaviors as something that now we have to react to and control, but instead to create conditions where you want to connect with us, want to belong to us, so that it will naturally heed our, our guidance. And, uh, We did that imperfectly, but to the extent that we did, it really made a difference.


[00:12:52] Speaker 5: tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

[00:13:00] Hunter: Yeah, it can be feel counterintuitive. I imagine when everything's feeling haywire and your kid's feeling really oppositional and things like that to want to bring them closer, right? Some, sometimes I imagine like we can feel defensive or we can feel like we want to shut it down or we want to control it, but then to try to like almost.

You know, I think of it as like dating. You're like, you're just as partners need date nights and things like that. Like we need date nights with date nights with our kids, right? We're wanting to bring them closer. We're wanting to bring them into closer relationship. But I imagine in those times when, when everything's chaotic and oppositional, that's when it can be really, really hard to make those overtures.

[00:13:44] Dr Gabor Mate: But it is for two reasons. One is that we get hurt and we get reacted, so we get tense and there's a certain degree of aggression and frustration in us, number one. Number two, then the culture and the parenting experts tell us to use their relationship against the child. And so rather than warming up their relationship, we're told to use timeouts and distancing and punishment and control,

[00:14:17] Speaker 3: which

[00:14:17] Dr Gabor Mate: further drives the child away from us.

Now, if we realize that the child's behaviors, you know, you use this word acting out

[00:14:30] Speaker 3: a

[00:14:31] Dr Gabor Mate: lot.

[00:14:32] Speaker 3: Yeah.

[00:14:33] Dr Gabor Mate: Let me just try this. Um, when I say acting out, what does that usually evoke for people? What do they, what, what do we mean when we say acting out?

[00:14:43] Hunter: I think for a lot of people, I would imagine it's, it's like talking back.

That's a big thing that I hear is talking back, yelling, uh, throwing things, breaking things.

[00:14:54] Dr Gabor Mate: Yeah. Rudeness, aggression, opposition. That's not what acting out means. It's a good English language phrase. We act things out when we don't have the words to say it in language. So in a game of charades. When you're not allowed to speak, what do you have to do?

You have to act it out. Or if you land in a country where nobody spoke your language and you have to portray hunger, you'd have to act it out. Kids, when kids are acting out, that's exactly what they're doing. They're portraying through behaviors, emotional needs and dynamics that don't have the language to express.

They don't know that, but that's what they're doing. Our job is to understand the acting out. Now you mentioned oppositionality. So these days, it's quite fashionable. To diagnose kids with a condition that doesn't exist. It's called oppositional defiant disorder. And when I say it doesn't exist, I don't mean that it doesn't describe something.

It describes something, but it's not a disorder in a child. It's very quickly. Can you oppose somebody if you're not in relationship with them?

[00:16:06] Hunter: I, I guess not.

[00:16:08] Dr Gabor Mate: Well, how would you?

[00:16:09] Hunter: I guess. Yeah.

[00:16:11] Dr Gabor Mate: If you're not sure what I'm talking about, if any of the listeners I'm thinking,

[00:16:13] Hunter: like, I can oppose some people who have no idea who I exist in the list, like No, but

[00:16:18] Dr Gabor Mate: you're in some relationship with them.

[00:16:19] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

[00:16:21] Dr Gabor Mate: You know, they're, they could be a politician far away, but they're in a relationship with you.

They have authority over you,

[00:16:26] Speaker 3: you know? You know?

[00:16:28] Dr Gabor Mate: So, and if people don't know what I'm talking about, my invitation is, At this point is to lock yourself in a room, make sure you're alone and oppose somebody. And if you manage to do it, put it on YouTube. They all want to see how you do it. So oppositionality by definition, opposition by definition implies a relationship.

[00:16:47] Speaker 5: Yeah.

[00:16:48] Dr Gabor Mate: So instead of diagnosing the child, why don't we look at the relationship? For example, um, Um, in an adult relationship, um, nevermind the child adult relationship, in an adult relationship, if I'm opposing what my partner wants me to do, you couldn't make sense of that unless you first learned what my partner wanted me to do.

In other words, it's, it's a relationship. Then the opposition only might make sense or it might not, but it certainly happens in relationship. Now, what happens with these kids who are labeled oppositional is first of all, a certain degree of resistance to parental authority is natural in a child. In fact, it's even healthy.

Um, in fact, it happens at age one and a half. One, what do kids start saying at one and a half?

[00:17:37] Hunter: Oh yeah, definitely.

[00:17:38] Dr Gabor Mate: No. What's the word? No. Well, why does nature do that? Because nature is smart. And nature says, this child has to develop into their own person. And in order to develop into their own individuality, They need to somehow codder the will of the parent to a certain degree so that they can, before they can figure out what they want, they have to figure out, they have to say no to what they don't want.

And that's a natural process. Now, Gordon calls that codder will. Coddering the will of the other. It's perfectly natural. As long as we understand that it's natural. But what happens if a kid starts saying no, and we see it as a bad thing and we start pushing back on it or in nature to every force, there's an equal and, um, opposite Carter force.

So when you push on these kids too hard, they push back even harder. Now what mitigates the oppositionality? is their relationship. You know, like when you first fall in love with somebody and they say, I'd like to have a cup of coffee, you'll say, okay, don't worry. I'll fly to New York and I'll bring you the best cappuccino in the world.

Just wait right here. I'll be back in five hours. I mean, you know, you, you'll do anything, you know, five years later in your relationship. And they will say, I want a cup of coffee. They say, get it yourself, you know, so that when we're, when we're in that powerful relational role, You want to please and cooperate.

So what mitigates the oppositionality is relationship. So these kids that are labeled oppositional, they have two things going on. They've lost a primary relationship with the adults. So it doesn't seem natural to them for adults to tell them what to do. Number one, and number two, they've been pushed on too much, so they're pushing back even harder.

So rather than diagnosing them, let's look at the relationship and warm up that relationship with them. Believe me, the opposition will melt beautifully, and I've seen that over and over and over again. And this is, by the way, true not just with kids, but even with adults, but especially with kids. Where are we?

Where are we? And

[00:19:52] Hunter: we, we talk about, so yeah, I mean, and what you're describing, right, is that attachment relationship and we want to have that close connection for our kids to, to listen to us, to not be oppositional, to, to have that close, you know, we want them to care about us for and care about them.

It's that whole cycle so that we can then get along in the world and, and get everyone's needs met. But, uh, you know, it, it, I think that. Maybe what you're describing, like, is sometimes, like, we get so, you know, right at the beginning, you said, I made the mistake that, like, if I love the kid, that will be enough.

And sometimes I think we, We, like you described, like we, we love our kids, but we're not necessarily showing it or expressing it, or we're not, we're not doing those actions or creating those connections maybe as explicitly as we would if we were like, I don't know, dating somebody in those first blooms of love, right?

Like we're, we're, we're maybe critical of a lot of things, or we're maybe, you know, Holding boundaries are a lot of things. Like I, the way I think of it, the easiest way for me to think of it is like, we're taking a lot of deposits out of that relationship bank account without, or, you know, taking a lot out without putting those deposits in, right?

Like we're, we're, we're pulling out where there, we haven't kind of put in the deposits in our relationship bank account. So is that, is that what's going on? A lot of times, like what we're, we're not, mm hmm.

[00:21:19] Dr Gabor Mate: Yeah. But we need to frame this not, not as the, um, not as default or a mission of individual parents, but as a real cultural issue.

Oh, thank you. Mm-Hmm. . Because how we evolved as, as creatures, as mammals, as hominids, and as hominids, humanlike creatures and as human beings for millions and hundreds of thousands of years is that kids were around their parents the whole day.

[00:21:49] Hunter: Or even aunties and uncles and all kinds of people that care and love about the

[00:21:54] Dr Gabor Mate: whole adult community.

Yeah, that's right. Now we attach to who we're around. The more immature we are, the more we attach to who is around. Um, so children naturally attach to parents and other adults. So that parent authority, the hierarchy, and parenting is a hierarchy, parenting is not a democracy. A kid doesn't get to vote on whether or not she runs across a street with heavy traffic.

[00:22:24] Hunter: Yeah, well, it wouldn't be safe to have it be a democracy.

[00:22:29] Dr Gabor Mate: A two year old doesn't get to vote on having five cookies before dinner.

[00:22:32] Hunter: No, no. And a

[00:22:33] Dr Gabor Mate: three year old doesn't get to vote on whether or not they can crawl out into the winter snow with no clothes on, you know. It's a hierarchy. But it's a natural hierarchy that's facilitated by the attachment relationship.

In a society where kids spend so much of their time away from their parents, this hierarchy is flattened. And kids, kids now connect to other kids and they start resisting adult authority. And the more we lose our natural authority, the more authoritarian we become. We've talked about this before, which just evokes more opposition.

The dynamic by which we've lost the reality that kids are no longer around the adults that nurture them most of the day. That's not the fault of individual parents. It's actually something that this society has not only created, but exacerbates every day. Thank you. And there's more and more breakdown of community, more and more loneliness, less and less connection in extended families.

More and more trauma that's not resolved from one generation to the next. And so all this conspires to drive kids away from us quite against our will or intention. So let's not, so nobody should feel blamed here, but we need to understand that we've lost the plot and we need to get it back.

[00:23:54] Hunter: Yeah. You, uh, you, in this book, you talk about peer orientation and you, you mentioned that earlier.

And, uh, you know, As I mentioned earlier, like most, most of us, most parents expect that peers are going to become more important than parents, especially when kids become adolescents. It's like widely considered normal and healthy, but you and Dr. Neufeld pushed back against that idea. Talk to me about the problems.


[00:24:28] Dr Gabor Mate: So, what is definitely true, that one of nature's agenda for all beings, particularly all human beings, is that we become our own individual selves. And from that, for that, there needs to be a gradual individuation and growth of independence from the adults. But that doesn't have to happen in opposition to the adults.

And what we call healthy teenage rebellion is neither genuine rebellion, nor is it healthy. Because genuine rebellion, like when the Americans rebelled against the British, what did they want? They wanted independence. They wanted freedom. When kids rebel against parents, it's not that they want freedom to be themselves.

What they're looking for is more melding and conforming with the peer group. There's nothing healthy about that. Now there always used to be this process of individuation, becoming our own selves, and we have to be because our parents are going to die. So some, you know, at some point we have to be able to manage ourselves independently and make our own lives and depend on our parents all our lives.

So that drive for independence is healthy. However, in traditional societies, that used to be guided by adults. There used to be ceremonies and rituals for kids to grow up and to individuate and become their own selves. You know, in indigenous cultures, there's all these initiation rituals guided not by peers but by elders and adults.

A lot of people will be familiar with the Jewish Bar Mitzvah Ceremony. Well, the Bar Mitzvah Ceremony or the Bat Mitzvah Ceremony for girls is meant to be a statement that now I'm an adult ready to join the adult community, but it's done under the guidance of adults. What we call Teenage Rebellion in our society is not genuine independence, but it's conformity with the peer group.

That's not genuine independence, and it's not healthy.

[00:26:33] Hunter: And it's done completely in opposition to the parents. I mean, it's so interesting, like, I can completely see this in my own family, like when I was young. I completely rebelled against my parents, did a lot of conforming with some bad actions of kids in my high school, did lots of initiation through drugs and alcohol, which wasn't very healthy.

And, um, you know, there was a lot of opposition. And then with my own kids, my kids are 17 and 14 now, and they are becoming their own people and we are still connected and we are still. Close. And they're having, you know, I don't know. We, we don't have any kind of initiation. One became an Eagle Scout. So maybe she had that sort of ceremony, right?

To become an Eagle Scout.

[00:27:19] Dr Gabor Mate: Interesting. But that's under the guidance of adults.

[00:27:22] Hunter: Yeah, exactly. Like I'm seeing that it's, it's, um, it's fascinating, but I'm, but what I'm seeing, I guess that I'm excited about is that I, when I went through that experience with my own family and my own father, just being like, oh, I don't I, I, I had to believe when my kids were young that it was possible for them to grow up and not hate me when they were teenagers and not go through this thing that everyone says is normal this, that they're going to hate you, that they're going to rebel and that's normal and you just have to accept that.

And I, I had to believe that wasn't true. And I love that you're saying that it's not true.

[00:27:59] Dr Gabor Mate: Well, you know, we want to, you know, we want to support our kids in independence. Well, we don't have to worry about it, we don't have to push them for it, because independence is a natural agenda of, of, of human development.

It's that if we provide the right conditions for it, it's going to happen. So as Gordon says, and Gordon is the main author of this book, and he says, to promote independence, invite dependence.

[00:28:23] Hunter: That's so counterintuitive to most people, right? Like we don't, maybe we don't want that here. Independence. We don't want peers replacing parents, but, but for, that's, um, that feels very counterintuitive, but please go on.

[00:28:37] Dr Gabor Mate: Well, here's the thing. At a certain point, the child will start saying, I'll do this myself. You know, they're trying to choose the, try the, you're tying their shoelaces when they're three years old, I'll do it myself. Why? That's nature's agenda to have mastery. The kid will do that anyway. I don't have to push them for it.

So if the child feels secure, the more secure they feel, the more independent they can be. So kids, when you do these experiments on attachment relationships, those kids who are secure with their parents, they'll play independently very beautifully. And when necessary, they'll come back to the parent for reassurance for a moment, then off they go and play independently again.

It's the kids who are insecure who can't play independently. People who play independently, but they don't go back to the parent for reassurance. So by meeting the child dependency needs, not by making them over dependent, but simply meeting their dependence needs, you're naturally promoting independence.

That's going to develop. And it's a kind of natural hierarchy in child development, as Gordon points out. It's like a pyramid, and I'm making a pyramid shape with my hands as I'm talking. The basis of it is the attachment relationship. Secure Attachment Relationship, where the child feels accepted, loved, not judged, celebrated, welcomed for exactly who they are.

That's the basis of everything. And that's the first tier of the pyramid. That's the basis. The second tier is Individuation, where the child becomes begins to become an independent person on their own. And that happens in stages throughout childhood and adolescence. So that one and a half year old to start saying no, that's the first step in that individuation process.

Again, you didn't have to teach the kid to say no. They start saying it automatically. It's the natural independent. So the second tier is individuation. Only when they're well individuated can they socialize. And that's the third tier is socialization. If you don't have a clear sense of yourself and if you don't feel secure, then when you socialize, what will you be doing?

You'll be trying to conform and fit in with the social group and not know who you are and not respect your boundaries and not know how to respect the boundaries of others. So that in this society, we tend to put socialization out of individuation. Big mistake. We need to honor the attachment relationship throughout life, certainly through the end of adolescence.

Individuation then happens spontaneously, but still in the context of the adult child relationship. And then the socialization happens absolutely spontaneously. We don't have to push it.

[00:31:44] Speaker 5: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

[00:31:52] Dr Gabor Mate: In our society, we push the socialization.

[00:31:55] Speaker 3: We do.

[00:31:56] Dr Gabor Mate: Before we, before the child is properly individuated, the result is what? Disaster. Kids trying to reach each other's standards and what happens is in the peer group, I mean, especially now with social media and the digital age, kids have totally separate emotional lives away from adults.

Adults don't even know what their kids are up to and so many terrible things happen in the peer group. Why? Not because peers are bad. They're not bad. They're just immature. And immature creatures are going to influence each other. in immature ways. That's what's going on right now. And if you look at the studies, more and more kids are being diagnosed with this, that, and the other.

A big article yesterday in the Guardian newspaper about kids are more unhappy than their parents used to be at that age. Why? Because the basis of everything, which is a Suku attachment, has been lost.

[00:32:56] Hunter: Yeah, and you, in the new updated version of Hold On To Your Kids, you guys talk about social media, video games, the whole digital internet connected culture.

I mean, I think, personally, it seems like it's separating adults from their own. ability to be comfortable in their own skin. And so it's, it seems to be really though affecting, um, a really affecting kids and it's probably was all exacerbated by the pandemic, I imagine.

[00:33:28] Dr Gabor Mate: Well, two things. First of all, just personally speaking, last summer, um, I was feeling rather discombobulated and stressed.

I'd been working too hard and friends suggested take a two week break from digital media. So lo and behold, I did. I shut off my computer, shut off my cell phone and went to with like any addict went to withdrawal, you know, and, uh, even a week after shutting off my cell phone, I find myself picking it up several times a day.

Then I was thinking to myself, what am I doing? It's not even on, you know, but, and I tell you after two weeks, I was a much calmer person. Um, now for kids, the social media is just a disaster for the most part, and I can talk about that greater length, um, in a moment. As to COVID, uh, COVID is an interesting dynamic.

Um, everybody said what a disaster it was for kids not to be able to read with each other.

[00:34:26] Speaker 4: And

[00:34:26] Dr Gabor Mate: all these studies about how badly kids fared, well, there was some truth in that. But the conclusion that was drawn was wrong. The conclusion was that kids needed each other. No, the proper conclusion is that kids were unnaturally, unnecessarily, and overly dependent on each other.

And so when that dependence was interrupted by COVID, a lot of kids felt really ill at ease and troubled. But the problem was not the separation from the peers, the problem was the over dependence on the peers in the first place. And in those families, where the adult relationships, now one thing that happened during COVID, by the way, is that the incidents of child abuse went up, and incidents of family violence went up, and poor kids showed up in emergency wards with injuries as a result.

That was documented. Why? Because those families that were troubled or traumatized in the first place. Where pre COVID the kids could leave the house and be with their peers and the adults could resolve their tensions by going to football games or to the pub or going to work or, you know, all those coping mechanisms were taken away and the tensions and unresolved traumas in the family showed up in a big way.

Those families that had the emotional and, I should say, also financial resources to, to be different, parents actually said, Oh my God, this is a miracle. I got to be around my child and I got to see them develop. I got to play with them. I got to see their milestones. I got to understand them and connect them and for them and for those kids, COVID was a real godsend.

So it all depends, not just on the social isolation that COVID and the policies around it imposed, but also who it was being imposed on. So COVID could turn out to be a difficulty or in some cases, a blessing for some families and that both happened. Now, The conclusion is not that the COVID problems proved the need for peer contact, no, what it proved was how overly reliant kids had become on their peers.

And they were like people separate from their lovers. They were, they were suffering, but the suffering was because of the over connection with the peers that we'd encouraged. You

[00:37:02] Hunter: know, I think that people imagine it because It's so common in our culture, like, what you're describing, like, we want our kids to be connected to peers and, and, and we want them to have the, the, that network of play and support and things like that, that I'm imagining the listeners finding it trouble, like, picturing what this looks like.

When a child is primarily attached to a parent, you know, and that attachment relationship is first, and what, what the, like, alternative, sort of maybe more ideal situation that you're describing could be. Can you describe that?

[00:37:44] Dr Gabor Mate: Yeah, well, And, um, as you know, my, my most recent book is called The Myth of Normal, and, uh, what the title means is that, um, things that we consider normal in society, they are the norm, but they're neither healthy or natural.

So that this pre orientation, which is a very recent, uh, development in human history, very recent, like a blink of an eye ago, but it's been so common now, we think it's natural. Now, what healthy relationship looks like is, the child will look to you for guidance. They will respect your authority, not because you're stronger and bigger and smarter, but because they trust you.

And we talk about discipline, kids who are adult oriented don't need to be disciplined in the ordinary, vulgar use of that word. What's a disciple? Disciple is somebody who follows you. A famous example, but Jesus said disciples. Is that because he threatened them and punished them and controlled them? Or because they, because he loved them and they loved him and they respected the authority that emanated from him?

And the kids will naturally do that, so that the discipline flows not from fear, but from love, actually. And so, kids who are oriented towards adults will naturally heed the parents guidance. Now, they will also develop their own independence and have their own opinions. But that will not happen aggressively towards the adults or, or disrespectfully.

Um, it also means that they come to you with their issues. Now, to mention a very tragic, there's been over some years, although there's been a drop in most recently, but a long time now, there's been a rise in childhood suicides. And when you look at the suicide notes of, um, these kids, what you see is that they were suffering, but they never told anybody what they're suffering.

So, in a healthy relationship, Like, if you're in a spousal relationship, for example, when you trust your partner, when you're suffering or when you're perturbed or perplexed or troubled, you'll go to your partner and say, look, here's what I'm feeling, can I tell you about it? Not necessarily so that you'll fix it for me, but just so that you'll hear me and I won't be alone with it.

So, children who are peer, who are adult attached, will come to you with their issues. And we'll trust you with them. And rather than, you talked about your own experience as a teenager, you tried to fit in with the peer group and you followed their immature guidance, just as they were following your immature guidance, by the way, it works mutually, um, you would have gone to your parents and said, you know, I'm not feeling comfortable, this stuff is happening for me and I need help.

So, um, those are the big signs that they'll want to be with you. They won't reject your company. They won't be, um, compulsively seeking the peer company either in person or online. That they'll enjoy family meals, family outings, um, but they'll seek out, they'll seek you out. That's, those are the signs of healthy adult orientation.

[00:41:29] Hunter: I love that description. I think that's really healthy. So if there's a listener who has a child. who's pushing away and they're having difficulty with, I imagine at one, at the same time, they need to create that loving, healthy relationship, right? Like try, stay connected, get into their kid's world a little, have them come into their world, you know, date for lack of a better word.

But, but also they probably need to sort of hold boundaries and um, and maybe, especially if a child is like a teen or a tween even, like, You, they may be, they need some limits and structures. What are some kinds of, what are, how does a parent navigate that, that

[00:42:16] Dr Gabor Mate: journey? It's a very complicated one, especially if the kid has become period already.

But here's the thing. What you cannot do is to, um, impose authority that you don't have and, um, you can provide guidelines and boundaries. Limits if you don't have the natural authority to do it, you can try, you know, a two year old, a five year old, you can threaten and cajole and punish enough, they'll follow you.

Try that with a teenager. What's it going to give you? Just massive oppositionality. And that's one of the mistakes that I made and I, um, is, is, uh, I tried to impose an authority that I didn't have because the natural authority comes from the child's relationship with me. So before you try to limit or try to apply limit, like if you, if your kid is hooked on cell phones.

and the internet. And if you don't have the natural authority, the natural trust, you try and impose a limit, you know what you're gonna get. And I, I used to work with drug addicts in Vancouver. That's one of my, one of my medical pursuits is I, I was an addiction physician. And I was well used to seeing people, uh, react when there was a threat to their drug supply.

You know, or when I wouldn't, sometimes when I wouldn't prescribe them something they wanted. The hostility and the rage, well, trying to scrape kids off their computers, if you don't have the national authority, it's like dealing with a drug addict in withdrawal. You're going to get the same hostility and the same oppositionality.

So for a while, you're going to have to accept that you don't have the authority to impose the limits and work on warming up the relationship.

[00:44:05] Speaker 3: In a

[00:44:05] Dr Gabor Mate: certain sense, you have to seduce the kid back into relationship with you. When I say seduce, I don't mean anything nefarious or sexualized. I mean, seduce literally means to lead away.

You have to lead the kids away from their attachments to the social media and each other and back to us. And you do that by spending time with them, by not giving up, by not getting triggered by their oppositionality, by listening to them, by understanding what's going on with them, and conveying that understanding, and by being really patient.

And, um, to keep showing up, not to abandon the field, because our tendency is to just, okay, I give up, don't give up. Well, you don't know, but you should know, and we hope that this book really ingrains in the reader, is that the kid underneath it all desperately wants you and needs you. Even if they deny that to the nth degree, their biggest need is still an unconditional loving relationship with a nurturing adult.

You can offer that, the peer group cannot. So you've got something that nobody else can give them. But you have to be patient, especially with these peer oriented kids. And put up with a lot of frustration. Let me tell you something. I mentioned that my son and I are writing this book, Hold On, Not Hold On To Your Kids, sorry, I already wrote that book.

Uh, Gordon and I, uh, Hello Again, A Fresh Start for Adults and Parents, uh, for Parents and Adult Children. We do this workshop with parents and adult children, adults in their 30s and 40s. You know what, adults, kids are still saying that what they want most is a relationship with their parents. What a good one.

So for the teenager, just take it for granted that that's what the child wants, even if the child will deny it.

[00:46:08] Hunter: Yeah. And you, and, and hold on to your kids. You have a lot of, uh, you have chapters on this. You, you know, you actually have in a chapter on discipline, you say when things aren't working out for your child.

You say to draw out the tears instead of teaching a lesson. Can you just tell us about that?

[00:46:24] Dr Gabor Mate: Yeah. Things happen in life. There are losses, there are disappointments, there are failures, there are setbacks, there are betrayals or situations that seem like betrayal. What's the natural response to that sadness, but grieving, but kids who are peer attached, they're afraid to be vulnerable.

Vulnerable means to actually feel your feelings. Vulnerable means from the word, Latin word, vulnerary to wound to feel our woundedness. So they tend to be defended against the woundedness. Therefore, rather than feeling their sadness and their grief, when things don't go well, they go into a mode of frustration, which is a mode of aggression.

[00:47:16] Speaker 3: Mm-Hmm. .

[00:47:16] Dr Gabor Mate: Underneath that aggression, there's a lot of sadness. And our task is to actually see the hurt underneath the frustration and to make room for it and to allow the child to soften enough to feel their pain and their sadness and have their tears because growth only happens when you're vulnerable.

Um, as I often say, a crab cannot grow inside a hard shell. If they're gonna grow, they have to molt and be very soft and vulnerable for a while. A tree doesn't grow where it's hard and thick. It grows where it's soft and green and vulnerable. Children don't grow up when they're shut down from their vulnerability.

Adults who are traumatized stay in a childhood state because they're so defended against their vulnerability. They were so hurt when they were kids. They're afraid to be vulnerable again. So this is a very common dynamic. Peer rented kids, without having been terribly hurt, still become defended against vulnerability.

Only when they feel safe with us, will they be able to experience all their feelings, including their sadness. So that's, we have to help them go from frustration, as Gordon says, to futility. Futility means That you really get that you can't have everything, that sometimes things are not going to work out and you're going to feel sad.

But there's such a denial of sadness in this society and you know what replaces sadness? It's depression. Because to be sad is not to be depressed. Depressed is when you push down your feelings and you go kind of flat. And so many kids are depressed these days because they don't have the room to express their emotions.

Which, by the way, the freedom to experience all your emotions, from joy to love to grief to anger to fear to sadness, that's one of the essential needs of the human child.

[00:49:19] Hunter: And that requires from us the ability to tolerate, to be able to be there, to be able to witness So all of that, so be able to be in that discomfort and still listen and still be present.

[00:49:36] Dr Gabor Mate: Exactly. And for that, of course, we have to be able to manage our own vulnerability.

[00:49:43] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. Oh my goodness. There's so much here. Um, it's such a, I love that you are really re releasing Hold On To Your Kids, Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers. You can find it anywhere. Books are sold, dear listener, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Um, of course, Dr. Ghebar Mata, you can find his books everywhere, uh, uh, you know, The Myth of Normal is an incredible book that we've talked about before. Do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our parents before we Wrap up.

[00:50:21] Dr Gabor Mate: Yeah. Um, I mean, probably many thoughts, but the one that, the one that crops up immediately is drop your guilt, drop your guilt.

This society makes it very hard to be a good parent, not your individual fault. If things go wrong, don't blame yourself, but at the same time, don't blame the child either. Drop the blame and the guilt. Look at the actual dynamics. Look at their relationship. And I promise you, um, when you. Put the relationship first, ahead of any behavioral goals, ahead of any other goals, then things will fall into place and healthy development will follow.

And that runs quite contrary to a lot of advice people get, where this advice is focused on behaviors largely. Um, don't feel guilty about things having gone wrong. It's not your fault. You did your best. All parents do their best, really. But at the same time, also don't see the child as the problem. Put the attention on the relationship.

That's, I suppose that's the essential message we're trying to convey.

[00:51:33] Hunter: I love that. I love that message. And I think it's so, it's so important, you know, we tend to be so individualistic and it's like, no, it's about us together. It's about us together. That's really beautiful. Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me today and to the listener.

I really am honored to talk to you and I enjoy it enormously. And I really. I think your work has such an incredible impact on the world, and part of it is because You're so vulnerable yourself in the way that you write, um, and in the way you share your wisdom. So, thank you.

[00:52:07] Dr Gabor Mate: Well, my pleasure. And thanks again for having me.

Take care.

[00:52:14] Hunter: Wow. What an awesome conversation. I love talking to Dr. Maté. I learned so much. You may want to listen back to the first episode I did with him in 2023, where he, you know, It takes a moment to kind of do a little psychoanalysis of me, um, and my childhood. It was pretty amazing, but he has always has so much helpful wisdom, and I, I hope that you have, you're, you're getting out of this and you may want to listen, re listen to it as, as I probably will.

I mean, I think this is, these ideas push back against the idea that kids should just be attached to their peers and should be totally separate from their parents as adolescents and, and teens, and I think that there's a There's proof there, right? Like this idea that parent kids should be completely rebelling against their teen, their parents and their teenagers is just not healthy.

You know, we, we are still in a relationship and we still want to have that influence because man, I know it. Bigger kids, bigger problems. And they need that. They need us. They need us there to be on their team with them and not, you know, oppositional to them. So, anyway, I hope this episode is really helpful, making you think.

Again, if you get something out of it, if you got something out of this, share it with a friend, share it with, More than one friend. And that really very much helps the podcast. And of course, make sure if you're listening, you're, you're subscribed and you get these episodes coming into your podcast player regularly so you can hear all the awesome back catalog of the Mindful Parenting podcast.

Man, I was just saying that last week that I have been doing this podcast since 2013. It's crazy. There's so many amazing episodes, so make sure you dive in. And I hope this has helped. You think and reflect and get some perspective, and I hope this will help you hold on to your kids and, you know, prioritize that strong relationship and take care of each other in that, in that strong connection.

Um, and if you need some support and help with that, I, I have so many resources for you on MindfulMamaMentor. com. The Mindful Parenting Membership opens up a few times a year. So you can go to mindful parenting course.com and get on the wait list. And I, this is where I love connecting with people the most.

And I, this is where I help people the most, is the people who are there in these weekly coaching calls. And I'm connecting them and watching how their families are growing and changing and this bit by bit change. That's so powerful. So anyway, if you want those resources, they're there for you. And you know what you.

deserve to have resources for parenting just as you deserve, you know, to, if you want to learn to drive, to have maybe lessons in driving. Um, anyway, I hope this has helped make perspective, some peace, some good stuff in your life. I hope we're watering those good seeds, and I'll be back again. Next week, we've got so many awesome episodes coming your way.

So stay subscribed. Um, so much happening into the summer and um, I'm wishing you a great week, my friend. Thank you so much for being here. Namaste.

[00:55:56] Speaker 6: I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So, definitely do it. I'd say

[00:56:12] Speaker 4: definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't this working? I would say definitely do it. It's so, so worth it.

It'll change you.

[00:56:35] Speaker 3: No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this.

[00:56:44] Speaker 7: You can continue in your old habits that aren't working or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.

[00:57:00] Hunter: Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You will be joining Hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting, connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindfulparentingcourses. com MindfulParentingCourse.

com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment. I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse.


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